Free Range on Food: Burgers, "Eating Animals," fried cherry hand pies

Tomato-Balsamic Chicken (Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)
Jun 27, 2018

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat!

Hope you're loving what we've been dishing out this week, including:

And so much more!

We will have Cathy Barrow and Tamar Haspel joining us today to help answer their sorts of questions -- and others, I'm sure.

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR1406 . Remember, you'll record and enter it at the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

We'll also have a cookbook or two to give away to our favorite chatter(s) today. So make your questions/comments good!

OK, let's do this.

Love this recipe, and now that summer is here, I will be making it even more often. But a question - why Italian tuna? Is there something different about it, vs. the "regular" tuna? Thanks!


RECIPE Israeli and Couscous Salad

The tuna might have been spec'ed that way because it is most often packed in oil (read: more flavor); the jarred stuff is more expensive and looks to be in nice huge shards/chunks, so maybe the Contessa prefers the look of that as well.  I'd say use a good, meaty brand you like. 

So thrilled about the muffin recipe(s)! Any suggestions about how to sub out the egg? Son is allergic and I'd love to make some that he can eat as well.

All-Purpose Muffins

ARTICLE: The best kind of muffin is warm, fluffy and made by you

I am thrilled that you are thrilled! Have you tried the flaxseed egg thing? I think that might work well, in addition to providing a bit of pleasant heartiness. I haven't baked a lot with them, but there are also plenty of egg replacers that you could probably use here, from brands such as Bob's Red Mill, EnerG or Follow Your Heart. I think even some banana would work, too. Report back if you try them!

Hi there. Do you have any tips on how to get your pie crust to roll to a circle? Whatever I do it ends up some funky shape. Or should I stop worrying about it and just patch it before transferring it to the pie pan? Thanks!

First, start with a circle. But seriously. Form the pie crust into a disk before chilling it, then work from the center outward, turning the disk a quarter turn, rolling out, and so on. (Of course, you could also choose to make a slab pie because rolling out pie dough to a rectangle is so much easier.) 

With all the horrible and crazy and bizarre things happening in our country today, is it any wonder we find comfort in our food? So thanks for keeping this hour foodcentric so I can escape every once and a while. :-)

You're welcome! We were just talking yesterday about finding so much comfort in "The Great British Baking Show" for that very reason. When the music comes on and I see those raspberries getting dusted with confectioner's sugar, the outside world melts away. Inside the tent, all is right.

I refuse to buy bagged lettuces but my kids really miss the shredded lettuce on tacos. Last night I got the great idea to use my food processor slicing blade to shred a beautiful head of organic iceberg lettuce. This worked great for dinner. Today when I went to make my lunch, the shredded lettuce had gotten sort of wilted and browned on the edges. How do manufactures keep the prepackaged shredded lettuce from getting like that? I stored it in my salad spinner so it wasn’t a matter of being squished in the bag.

Using a metal knife has been thought to cause cut lettuce to brown, but when the obsessive testers at America's Test Kitchen tried it out, they found that a plastic lettuce knife only bought an extra day before the lettuce started to brown -- and that none of it started to brown on the cut edges before 12 days anyhow. Tearing instead of cutting bought an extra two days, because it ruptures fewer of the lettuce's cells.

So I wonder if the food processor is leading to more browning because it's possibly cutting the lettuce way more than  simply slicing with a knife would? 

Manufacturers often remove oxygen and add carbon dioxide to prevent this in bagged salad mixes. But at home, one thing you can do is try to reduce extra moisture by layering your cut lettuce between paper towels. 

The yellow ones. So I can get a lot of them for half price, but they don't keep forever. And even I know that you don't put them in the fridge. Is there a way to cook at least some of them? I was flipping channels a while back and saw one of the chefs scooping out regular cherry tomatoes and stuffing them with blue cheese, which sounds delicious (also horribly fussy) and doesn't at all address that leaving them raw will lead to spoiling. Any ideas?

Why don't you roast them, a la Bonnie's Polenta With Basil and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes?

Or oven-drying?

Oven-Dried Cherry Tomatoes in Olive Oil

RECIPE: Oven-Dried Cherry Tomatoes in Olive Oil

Or a savory cornbread.

Savory Tomato Cornbread Cobbler

Or this stellar dish from Aaron Silverman at Rose's Luxury.

Bucatini With Sungold Tomato Sauce

RECIPE: Bucatini With Sungold Tomato Sauce

Those myth-busters at Serious Eats say: Don't believe that never-refrigerate-tomatoes rule. Check it out here.

Hello. My parents moved to the Van Dorn area of Alexandria recently. What is the best place to buy seafood and fish in Alexandria? I live in DC, so any help would be appreciated!

Good question that I have few good answers for, because I have so many shopportunities for seafood in DC and MD. Would they go as far as the Wegmans at Hilltop Village Center? Chatters?

Hello! I have two sour-cherry bounces in my window right now (vodka, rye whiskey). I love your recipe and would like to try some variations. I have a few questions. (1) Does it hurt to keep the fruit in the alcohol for more than the 7+40 days? (2) Would it be OK to use mint, or would it become bitter? (3) How "good" should the base alcohol be? Is it worth using a premium alcohol? E.g., what's an appropriate bourbon that's not a waste of money but is drinkable given the fruit and sugar? (4) What would be the best way to incorporate citrus? (5) What would be a good alcohol to use with plums? (6) How would a bounce work with a hard fruit like cranberries? I know that's a lot, but please make my bounce dreams come true. :)

1) It doesn't hurt to keep the fruit in the mixture longer, but it might make the bounce more opaque. For a clear bounce, strain in the recommended time period. 2) If you want to use any herbs, choose dried herbs, not fresh. The fresh will blacken and get slimy. 3) Cheap booze all the way. There's no benefit to spending money on the base booze. 4) Citrus zest! Use a vegetable peeler for long swaths of the peel only (no white pith) and add the peel to the fruit and booze at the beginning. 6) for plums, see Slivovitz. 6) Cranberry bounce sounds great. I might smash the cranberries first.  

 

RECIPE (FYI)  Cherry Bounce

What are several of your favorite Woodbridge, Virginia restaurants, and why?

Tom is traveling today, so didn't have his chat, but I know he likes Bistro L'Hermitage.

 

Ok. I'll take the bait. What the heck is a borlotti bean and if I found some somewhere (hint?) what would I do with it? By the way, the zucchini soup looks delicious.

There is a farmer at the Baltimore Farmers Market with fresh borlotti, or cranberry, beans. They're smooth and silky and flavorful. So delicious. I use them in minestrone or in a soup with Tuscan kale.

The zucchini soup IS delicious! Nice  to do things with those flowers besides stuff and fry them. Cranberry beans look like this (same color on the pods, too).

 

 

Glad Bonnie included that Rancho Gordo link -- they're a good source for dried!

FYI, when I was in Mexico City recently, I had an amazing bean soup from beans the chef called Cacahuate. I thought as I ate it, "These remind me of cranberry beans." Sure enough -- same bean! So lots of names.

Your infinitely-variable muffin recipe looks like bring my new favorite too; but extra kudos for including ALL of the prep time in the estimate of duration. I can’t tell you how tired I get of recipes that appear to estimate time starting only after completion of all the chopping, measuring, melting. It makes it so hard to figure out when to start in order to have a dish ready at the same time as the rest of the meal. So, go Voraciously!

For sure. When I time a recipe, I start my clock as soon as I start doing anything. And usually there's an extra few minutes from when I get distracted by my kid, email or whatever -- because who ever cooks without a single interruption??

The Red Hen in Lexington, VA., Mexican-style restaurants in DC where Trump administrators were dining. Wow! What say you?

I say, busy week for stories about the intersection of food and politics!

For as often as I buy/eat pita bread (rarely), I should probably skip asking this question... but is there a particular brand that doesn't fall apart when you try to fill it???

I usually feel for the thickness of the pita through the bag...if it's particularly thin at the center, it's more susceptible to tearing. Don't have a brand I prefer, but rather go for what feels best/freshest -- chatters, do you?

I really like the ones from the in-house bakery at Harris Teeter. A little smaller in diameter but thick, soft and sturdy. Best I have found in terms of not falling apart.

I bought... let's say an ample amount of sour cherries at the market last weekend. I'd like to make ice cream with them, but the recipes that I see online (including my preferred one, "David Lebovitz's Toasted Almond & Candied Cherry Ice Cream") call for starting with sour cherries that are already in a light syrup and then boiling them down with more sugar. If I'm starting with fresh cherries instead of jarred ones, how do I adjust the recipe? Thanks!!!

How about roasting them? Then you'll soften the cherries, and get some nice juices, too. I use this recipe from Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. Calls for black or red cherries, but I think it would be fine with sour cherries, too.

I think you're going to want to treat the cherries as though you were going to put them in a jar, so pit the cherries and add a cup of sugar for every 2 quarts. Squeeze in the juice of a lemon. Stir well and let the mixture sit for a couple of hours until some juices have developed. Boil this mixture in a saucepan for a few minutes until the sugar is totally dissolved and the mixture is slightly thickened. These cherries will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or in the freezer for months, ready to be scooped out into that luscious ice cream. I've made it more than a dozen times. It's sensational. 

Hi! I tried your Polenta With Basil and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes on Monday -- rave reviews. I added smoked herring -- that worked.

 

Now, let's talk leftover polenta. It's firm now in the fridge, but will it get loose again if I grill it? Also, someone online said mushrooms and goat cheese were good with polenta, but no instructions on how to make it so. Ideas? Thanks for all you do, this chat is my favorite place to be on Wednesdays.

Always nice to hear! I like your add-in.

 

You can simply cut your chilled polenta into squares or planks, say 1/2 inch thick,  brush them with olive oil, season with S&P and grill them or pan-saute them to get some crisped edges and color. Takes just a couple minutes.

 

Or, you can "reconstitute" with a liquid -- i'd suggest using one with flavor, like a nice broth, or some indulgent dairy. Heat the liquid first, far below boiling, then break up the firm polenta and add, stirring until it comes together. Adding a little olive oil works well here, too.

but pita is really really easy to bake. You can control the thickness then. And you can control the combination of whole wheat and white flour, too.

We love a dinner of split peas and cornbread. I usually go by the 30-40 minutes rule of thumb for cooking the peas, but, last weeks batch (of dried split peas only purchased a week or so ago) was not done at 40 minutes, not done at 60 minutes not done at 90 minutes. It took a good two hours for them to cook, and then they were great, and had the usual taste and texture. Did I just buy a bag of old ones? That's the only answer I can think of.

Yep, sounds like they were indeed very old! Were these from a different source than previously? I'd bring it up to the store to see if they have any other ideas, but I can't think of any other reason, especially if they were the same variety and everything.

When I thought I was short on eggs for banana bread last week, I googled, and was told that you can replace up to 2 eggs with 1/4 C mashed banana = 1 egg. I ended up not needing to do that, so just have to take their word for it.

Yup, banana would be great in these muffins, I think.

I was thinking of trying the Tsukune Chicken Meatball recipe. But I'm not fond of pouring a ton of oil into a pot and later tossing it. Is there an alternative way of preparation that doesn't involve cooking in deep oil? It can be a method that preserves the concept of a meatball, or not, it can be like a bolognese instead. Ideas, please?

I suppose the amount of oil is relative to what you are used to? A depth of 3/4 inch in a large skillet might be 2 1/2 cups total. Because these meatballs don't need to be a perfect round shape -- and there aren't a lot of them to begin with -- you could probably use a small pan, cook half at a time and use no more than 1 cup of oil. 

 

This recipe might qualify as a shallow-fry as opposed to a deep-fry, because the meatballs are not submerged in a depth of oil. Keep turning them to brown them on all sides; in fact, start with as little oil as you like and just be attentive to make sure the meatballs are evenly browned. They most likely would not be cooked through, so have them spend extra time in the final glaze step, reducing the heat so the glaze doesn't burn. Does that make sense?

 

PS I liked this recipe very much!

Thanks for doing the chat; I hope you or some of the chatters can help! I've been craving pancakes recently, but none of the recipes I've been testing out at home have been doing it for me. They are, basically, 1 to 1.5 cups flour, up to 1 T baking powder and/or soda, 1 to 2 T sugar, 1 t salt, 1 to 1.25 cups milk or buttermilk, 1 to 2 T melted butter, 1 egg. I thought the buttermilk would help with the flavor but it really doesn't add much; they're too bland. I'm vegetarian, so frying them in bacon grease is out; I use butter (salted). Why do restaurant pancakes taste so much better than mine?

Well, those sound remarkably like my pancakes I published in Voraciously, but I love them and don't think they're bland!

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes

ARTICLE: The only pancakes worth getting out of bed for on a lazy Sunday

I do find a pretty good buttermilk flavor on these. Have you added any extracts? Even just a little vanilla extract can boost flavor and round things out very nicely. Or how about some malted milk powder, which is a classic ingredient and probably one of the secrets to diner/restaurant pancakes. Add a few tablespoons to my recipe and see where it gets you (in addition to the flour and adding a bit more buttermilk, or in place of a few tablespoons of the flour, keeping the liquid the same). Of course, additions such as chocolate chips, blueberries or nuts are another way to perk up bland batter!

ya know, I DID consider adding the line, "please don't suggest I bake my own as I am a single person living alone who, as noted, only eats pita rarely"

As someone who has baked pita, I also have to add, they can be a little tricky, in terms of forming, to get them to puff correctly. So there's nothing wrong with looking for good ones to buy. 

If you're near a great Middle Eastern market, like Mediterranean Bakery in Alexandria, buy their freshly made pita -- it's pillowy and lovely.

in my experience. Of course, I'm lucky enough to live in an area with plenty of them. Or try the naan from an Indian grocery; they split nicely, too.

#JINX

We're expecting a baby soon, and I'm planning to spend some time this summer cooking & freezing meals for us to eat once the little one arrives. Any vegetarian/vegan recipes that would freeze well? No soup, stew, or chili -- I've already got a lot of those on my list (including your smoky black bean & sweet potato chili, which we LOVE). The Make It/Freeze It collection was pretty thin on that front.

Congrats! That was me about a year ago. :)

I made this exact recipe to stow in the freezer for meals after we brought my son home from the hospital.

Greek Mixed Greens Pie With Phyllo Crust

RECIPE: Greek Mixed Greens Pie With Phyllo Crust (I packed mine in two disposable square metal pans from the grocery store)

Also veggie burgers!

BGR Veggie Burgers

ARTICLE: 5 recipes that will help change your mind about veggie burgers

I've also had good luck freezing veggie postickers to be pan-fried or steamed later.

From Van Dorn, the Hilltop Wegmans is actually pretty close and worth a visit. I like Good Fortune market at Eden Center. Great selection of fresh and live seafood that you can have prepared to order. The pictures on the wall (option 1, scaled and cleaned; option 2, head off, scaled and cleaned, etc.) make it easy for everyone.

#loveourchatters

I made the herby mushroom and Swiss crepes last night and they didn't quite turn out like I'd hoped. When I started the recipe I realized I only had bread flour, but forged ahead. I think the batter was too thick. Without one of the sticks they use at creperies to spread the batter, I just tried to tilt the pan, but I had to hold it literally sideways to make it spread at all. The final result was a little thicker and less crisp than I would have liked. Was it the flour? Should I have added more milk once I realized my batter was thick? Thanks!

Bread flour is actually the go-to in several crepes recipes, so I'd say it was the consistency of your batter. For crepes, thin is In. Your instincts are right; add more milk. 

 

When you produce crepes that are a bit too thick, roll em and cut em into strips, which you can toss with a sauce or add to stir-fried vegetables.

RECIPE Herby Mushroom and Swiss Crepes

I had to leave town unexpectedly recently, and while I did pretty well preserving the food in my fridge (dividing and freezing the ricotta, steaming, squeezing, chopping, and freezing the spinach, etc.), I was left with an avocado, which I just threw into the freezer. What am I going to have when I thaw it? Best only for purees? Or will it retain some of its structure? It's whole and uncut and has been in the freezer about three weeks. I also just found out that I'm leaving again. How long does a quick pickle last? I've had a taste for them lately, and I have a half of an English cucumber left. Can I do it now and have it last for a few weeks? For sure, from now on I'm going to try to find out my travel schedule before I go to the grocery store...

Quick pickles, kept in the refrigerator, will usually last about a month. They don't so much go bad as lose their crunch. And a limp, soggy pickle is a sad thing.

Your columns today were very informative and interesting. Wegmans destroys its unsold fresh fish?! That's sinful, in an area where so many people need feeding. Tamar, thanks for the thorough review.

I always learn things from Tamar, don't you?

 

Re Wegmans: My only thought/hope is that their turnover is quite high. Judging from how busy it can be in that seafood dept., perhaps the waste is kept low? 

And I always learn things from Bonnie. Maybe that's why we're friends.  

And if there's one supermarket institution I'd like to do away with, it's the fish counter where they unfreeze fish, put it on ice, and then throw it away. 

I transferred leftover packaged sauerkraut into a screw-top plastic container and refrigerated it. I came across it weeks later, while cleaning the refrigerator, and put it on a counter. Where it ended up sitting for maybe two more weeks. Unrefrigerated. I finally opened it today and it smelled fine! But I'm afraid to taste it. Does fermented food need refrigeration? Does it ever go bad?

If the sauerkraut stays entirely submerged under the brine, it does not need to be refrigerated. That said, it also needs to be kept below 70°F to avoid molding. Sauerkraut is traditionally kept in barrels, so clearly does not need refrigeration, but those barrels were kept in winter storage rooms or other cool spaces. I'm not sure I would eat the sauerkraut that you describe. It's been in a plastic container, in a room without temperature control, and whether it was submerged is not clear. I vote no.

I sometimes find myself with extra tomato paste because even with the really little cans, there is too much there for my purpose (usually upping the tomato taste in spaghetti sauce that has a lot of extras in it). Seems it would be better to freeze it (ice cube tray?) and pull a cube out for making a chicken breast for one?

I cut a piece of plastic wrap in sheet pan or on a plate. Dollop tablespoons of tomato paste here and there on the wrap, freeze it, then place all the dollops in a ziptop bag. 

You know about the metal tubes of tomato paste, right? That might be an option for your 1-tablespoon/small-increment needs.

And yep, you could certainly freeze the sauce for this #DinnerInMinutes recipe -- with the chicken in it, or not.

RECIPE Tomato-Balsamic Chicken

While I am a vegetarian I do not think I could stomach Eating Animals. However, I missed hamburgers but I am so loving the Beyond Meat burgers on a freshly made brioche roll from the farmers market and topped with microgreens, ramp mustard Brussels sprout relish and paprika ketchup (having one tonight). Satisfies my craving and it's delicious.

When Food staff eat out, do you pretty much always order dishes you don't know how to make? Or that are so complicated, you can't be bothered?And when you eat something fabulous, do you try to deconstruct it so you can recreate it at home? Just really curious!

Just because I can make it doesn't mean I don't want to eat it when I go out! Sometimes I just have a hankering, of course, and knowing somebody makes an excellent version of something that will save me from having to do the dishes is exactly what I want. Other times, yes, I'm drawn to something that I know I'd never make, for whatever reason.

It's true, if something is great, I will try to recreate it -- especially if it seems home-cook friendly. I'm not going to start a sauce two years beforehand just to make dinner, you know...

I bought a bag of Whole Foods' 365 brand of black lentils but the water turned black the moment I placed them in the pot and the lentils were green/brown. Based on my research, the 'black' lentils were French lentils with a peppery kick. What word(s) do I need to look for if I want black lentils like the kind served at Cava?

Hmm. Interesting! You want to look for beluga lentils, I'd say. They're named because they look like beluga caviar!

We have always liked the pancake mix from Washington brand flour. They no longer make the mix, but the recipe is available on line and includes a bit of corn meal. Try that one and see what you think.

I found a soft flat bread recipe I like that calls for potato flour. It is not available in my area and I had to order it at more expensive price. Can I substitute mashed baked or boiled potato for the potato flour? I assume I'd have to remove some of the liquid.

Instant potatoes, a k a, mashed potato flakes, might be an easier option -- here's a royal take on it (from King Arthur flour)

Go for buckwheats instead of the delicate buttermilk ones. Yum.

Can you recommend a way to enjoy squash flowers that does not involve deep frying? Do the flowers themselves have flavor or are they just a vessel for the stuffing and deep frying? We have a rather largish squash plant that (a) was supposed to be something different and (b) appears to require a second plant for pollination. So, before I rip it out, I'd like to play a little with the flowers, if we can. Thanks.

They have a really nice, mild squash flavor and definitely do not require frying! One of my favorite ways to use them is to stuff them into a quesadilla -- it's traditional street food in Mexico City, and just perfection. You can also just use them as a raw garnish on a salad or soup (like that River Cafe zucchini soup), stir them into risotto, lots of other things. I've stuffed them with goat cheese and then lightly steamed them, serving them simply dressed in a little tomato sauce; that's pretty incredible.

Get to the Mediterranean Bakery in Alexandria. Their pita has a nice chew and flavor that's now floury poof like the stuff in the grocery store. If you can get it warm, pick up a tub of hummus and just have at it. Lovely.

You and I are like-minded -- I suggested the same thing!

I've had good luck with Father Sam's holding together. I get the whole wheat.

Thanks!

I love the flavor of the curry version Sweet Potato and Chickpea Shepherd’s Pie but I was thinking of trying it was taco seasoning instead. I just bought a small jar from Penzey's and it smells wonderful. Do you think that flavor combination would work?

I had totally forgotten about this recipe -- thanks for the reminder!

Yes, I think you could sub in taco seasoning... Let us know how it turns out!

The Perfect Pita chain (local) sells its pita at the Whole Foods on Duke Steet. The wheat is terrific, keeps for a while in the fridge (just reheat in micro for 20 seconds), and holds up well to filling. We always have some in fridge and freezer. When it gets stale, I crumble it, sautee in olive oil, and pour some beaten eggs over it for a pita omelet (you can also add some of those little yellow tomatoes!).

Good tips!

I was always suspicious that squash blossoms were worth the trouble, but I recently had a loroco/cheese pupusa and the cook tried to explain to me that "loroco" was a flower and that some people thought it tasted like okra. That was the week before the Post Weekend article on pupuserias! Nice synchronicity.

I've got a similar problem with fruitcake. I have some recipes that I love, but by the time I even think about making them, it's already a month too late.

Where would you go to have a pre-dinner drink with out of town guests in Shaw? Sorry this is not the forum, but thought you would have a quick suggestion. Thanks!

Lots of options but what came first to my mind were the basement wine bar at the Dabney and Columbia Room. I know Tom has also been a big fan of the bar at Tiger Fork.

Another thought: Especially if you like mezcal, Espita!

I do like the burgers I make in a skillet a little more than the grilled ones, but when I grill, I don't have to clean the skillet. Just saying.

But you have to clean the grill, so ...

You can make the same number of pitas as you have to buy in a package. And freeze the leftovers. So there. Or just get the good ones from a Middle Eastern market and cherish the extra hours you don't have to spend on baking. Home baking is mostly recreational - a choice about how to use your time and what your priorities are. You can buy pretty much anything you want, even decent bagels and real Italian bread if you look hard enough. But that doesn't make the house smell good, and it doesn't get you something exactly to your taste. I'll shut up now.

I can't wait to try this. I know you guys get tired of substitution comments but I don't have ready access to any quantity of regular basil. I can, however, easily get thai basil. That should be ok, yes?

Thanks, but I'm also feeling a bit trolled by the link from the Other Paper. ;)

Here's something a bit similar from our archives.

Spelt Buttermilk Pancakes With Pear Butter

RECIPE: Spelt Buttermilk Pancakes With Pear Butter

Hi there, I have a couple of pounds of cornmeal that would like to use for either savory or sweet dishes besides cornbread & fritters. Suggestions?

I can name that tune in 8 titles (at least). Save some for coating fried green tomatoes!

Polenta! (several options)

Cornmeal Waffles With Cheddar, Chipotle and Scallions

Bread-n-Butter Pickle Corn Bread (this is not like  your average corn bread, so I felt compelled to include it)

Cornmeal and Dried Cranberry Pancakes

Root and Sausage Pie

Cornmeal Popovers

Savory Corn Bread Pudding

Corn Spoonbread With Goat Cheese and Chives

 

Breakfast burritos if you eat eggs. Or omit and add more chorizo spiced tofu, cooked potatoes, onions, peppers. If short on time, just use one of those frozen breakfast potato mixes. Cheese optional. Wrap in flour tortilla, cover in plastic wrap. Freeze. Cook for approx 1min (less if your microwave is more powerful). I got some for my first baby, and then made a million for my second. you can reheat and eat with one hand while carrying a baby in the other. Accept that some of the food will fall on him/her and slurp it up. Congrats!

Yes, to all of the above, especially to falling food while holding baby. I remember one instance in particular holding my son and picking up Trader Joe's Yogurt Os with my toes after it fell on the floor. (It took a while for me to come around to letting the dogs eat all the detritus.)

Tofu Chorizo

RECIPE: Tofu Chorizo

I see that you can now get a fried chicken sandwich with pickle sauce (a combination of dill, vinegar, onion, garlic, and pepper in a buttermilk base) and pickles for "a limited time". Customer reactions seem to range from "yum" to " why?" Have any readers tried this, and can you explain this "pickle craze"? Remember, Sonic has Pickle Juice slushes, too. Or is this just a food fad, like balsamic vinegar was a few years ago, and kale is now?

Pickles are forever. Not a craze. Not a trend. A longstanding tradition.

Do you remember Pickle Sickles? Some pickle-juice history in our 2008 piece on them.

I have found it in my local Giant in the kosher section.

Are you sure that wasn't potato starch? Not the same thing....

thanks for all the DC-area recommendations! alas (not really), I am in San Francisco, where we have robot food service and avocado toast galore, but I can't think of a Middle Eastern market off the top of my head... There is a ME restaurant down the street, however, so I think I'll ask them if they'd sell me some pita next time. Whenever that is.

Good luck!

My brother used to bring me Taro pancake mix from Hawaii when he lived there. I'm sure you can find it on the net somewhere. They tasted great the color (just vaguely purple) was fun. I liked them with jam rather than syrup.

Fascinating!

recipe looks great but I'd like to make it with regular potatoes and no sugar. Any other adjustments you'd recommend?

No, but I think you're missing out to not try this with sweet potatoes. 

I'm not fluent in Spanish by any means but I thought cacahuate meant "'peanut." Were there peanuts in the dish?

No, it's the name of the bean, but yes, it means peanut. Perhaps because it does look a little like a peanut.

When I squeeze lemon juice, I hate to throw the whole shell into the compost, but I haven't found a good way to keep the shavings of peel from them (I use a vegetable peeler) from drying out in the freezer. Any recommendations?

Zest the lemon using a vegetable peeler and wrap the swaths of peel tightly in plastic wrap, then put it in a ziptop bag in the freezer. Air is the enemy here, so wrap tightly.

The fish story was great, thanks. Got me to thinking about meat sold at the farmers markets. Almost every week when I'm buying from a farmer at my local VA market, someone comes up all huffy that he only sells frozen product. He politely explains it is state law and that his meat is frozen at time of processing. It is in fact delicious but the belief that frozen is inferior to fresh seems pretty well entrenched.

You're welcome! Also, so right. 

Really, the Old Town Whole Foods has an excellent fish counter.

that was an unnecessary, judgmental followup

Can we go inside the Great British Baking Show tent now? So nice there. 

Not me. Unless my version isn't delicious (hamburgers! Sesame noodles!) or it means an hour-plus of prep and a sink full of dirty dishes, I only order dishes I can't make at home.

Sweet potatoes are in everything now and I get tired of them. They're not "regular" potatoes but people keep trying to pretend that they are. Color me disgruntled.

(I'm just humming the "Great British Baking Show" theme song right now, louder and LOUDER AND LOUDER!)

Do you have any recommendations for a gluten-free cookbook I could use that would result in kid-friendly meals? I'm finding gluten-free eating to be tough with picky eaters.

Jacqueline Mallorca's "The Wheat-Free Cook" might be just the ticket for you. 

I thought subscribing to and supporting TWO newspapers was a good thing on my part, and I don't see sharing a recipe from the other one as a negative. Sheesh. There is no limit on love, and I love both.

Aw, I was just teasing!

Joe, Congratulations on your nuptials! Please regale us with at least one food description from your wedding or honeymoon.

Thanks! From a Mexico City street food tour: Tlacoyos, blue corn masa stuffed with fava bean puree, griddled, and topped with avocado, cheese and salsa. Wowee.

Scrape whatever is left from a can into a Ziploc bag. Seal, except for a corner to release air, then press to flatten out paste to fill the whole bag. Seal completely, label (that is where I often go wrong), put in the freezer. When needed, open bag and break off desired amount. Just did it this morning.

Bought too much sliced cheese and ham at Costco. Can I freeze them?

Yes you can. Helpful tips: Place wax paper or plastic wrap between slices of cheese. Wrap the sliced ham tightly in plastic wrap (in portions) and seal in a ziptop bag. Defrost in the refrigerator and pat dry before using, as the ham will mostly likely give off excess moisture.

If you're looking for a mix versus a recipe, I can recommend the New Hope Mills mixes. They're available from Wegman's or directly from the company online.

To the person who asked -- I've tried several times to just throw a whole avocado in the freezer. It always came out ugly-mushy, like the brown stuff you throw out from a non-frozen avocado. So I suggest you try mashing it before freezing.

Whether it's worth the trouble to make at home versus whether you can buy it "just as good" elsewhere is a highly individual decision, and cannot be judged by anyone else not sharing the same taste buds (for me it's mashed potatoes).

I love the idea of a sheet of frozen tomato paste that can be "broken off" as needed. Brilliant.

Do we know why PBS aired all the seasons out of order? I just found out that the most "recent" season first aired in Britain in 2012.

I think it was because they started midstream and then to satisfy demand and interest, picked up older seasons since they never aired on this side of the ocean. I love that the "current" season is a few years old because then I don't run the risk of spoilers via Twitter from the previous contestants that I follow!

 A PBS spokesman told me they had to negotiate for each season of GBBS separately, so maybe based on the new series going to a different network over there, this is what could be obtained for play in the States?

Have always wanted to visit. Did you love it? Did you spend time outside the city?

I highly recommend -- love visiting there. We didn't get outside the city much this trip, but I have before...

Loved seeing this and carrot risotto recipes! Hard to know which to make first. I try to cook oil free. If I water sauce the eggplant and add back some sesame seeds and/or tahini (without added oil) might that do the trick? Thanks!

Worth a try, sure!

I was watching Henry VI (parts 1-3) and Richard III smashed down to three plays in one day out in Kingston (outer London) and there was a TJ Maxx store, so I popped in thinking about those adjustable rectangular baking pans. Didn't find those, but they had the tea towels. Picture of the tent on one of the set. I still haven't used them because I'm worried I'll lose the picture in the wash, but I have them. They make me smile.

Shakespeare, London and Great British Baking Show? Were we separated at birth?

Well, you've let us cool for a few minutes, then dusted us generously with confectioners' sugar, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, and many thanks for Tamar and Cathy for helping with the a's.

Now for the giveaway book: The chatter who recommended good fish purveyors near Alexandria (including Good Fortune market) will get "French Grill." Send your mailing information to Kara.Elder@washpost.com (give her a couple weeks -- she's on vacation!) and she'll get you your book.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Cathy Barrow
Cathy Barrow's first cookbook is "Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving" (W.W. Norton). She blogs at cathybarrow.com.
Tamar Haspel
Tamar Haspel, who farms oysters on Cape Cod and writes about food and science, is author of the monthly Unearthed column, winner of a James Beard Award.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
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